Cricket: Crawley turns his bat on old friends

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The Independent Online
Combined Univs 191-3; Lancs 193-3

Lancashire win by 7 wickets

THE last time a Combined Universities team made significant progress in the Benson and Hedges Cup, they were captained by Michael Atherton, of Lancashire, who led them to within four runs of the semi-finals in 1989. Atherton, taking some authorised leave after the West Indies tour, passed up the opportunity to move among students again yesterday, missing a comfortable Lancashire win.

The Parks was conducive to a stroll, which was more or less the manner of Lancashire's success, one which will enable Atherton to renew more recent acquaintance with Derbyshire, to whom they lost last year's final at Lord's, in the second round on 2 May at Derby.

In the absence of Atherton, the principal source of interest for the large and sometimes incongruously noisy crowd was John Crawley, who captained the Combined team in 1993. He played himself into the new season with calm authority, his innings earning the Gold Award and providing the impetus for a seven-wicket victory achieved with 3.3 overs to spare.

On a pitch that did not readily yield runs, Crawley only occasionally interrupted his patient progress with an example of the handsome strokes he can produce but nevertheless had reached 73 off 120 balls when the wicketkeeper Jonathan Batty dived a long way to his right to claim an excellent catch.

The wicketkeeper's agility enabled James Bovill, the best of the student bowlers, to record his second wicket. A tall right- arm fast-medium, Bovill, who is at Durham, has been recruited by Hampshire and looks an interesting prospect. In his first spell, he accounted for the former Oxford captain, Jason Gallian, and acquired the day's most coveted scalp with the first ball of his third stint.

However, the University's total of 191 for 3, after Mike Watkinson had launched his captaincy of the county by winning the toss and choosing to field, never looked substantial enough.